Easton Farm owners, developers sue city of Springboro, claim unlawful zoning

An Oct. 8 vote by Springboro City Council to reject the preliminary plan and rezoning of the 103-acre Easton Farm for a mixed-use development is now the focus of a civil lawsuit against the city of Springboro by the owners of Easton Farm and its developers.  ED RICHTER/STAFF
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An Oct. 8 vote by Springboro City Council to reject the preliminary plan and rezoning of the 103-acre Easton Farm for a mixed-use development is now the focus of a civil lawsuit against the city of Springboro by the owners of Easton Farm and its developers. ED RICHTER/STAFF

The developers of a proposed large-scale housing and retail development in Springboro and the owners of the property have filed a lawsuit against the city in Warren County Common Pleas Court that says the city’s zoning is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit against the city was filed Tuesday by the owners of the Easton Farm property; the Ted and Rebecca Hall Living Trust, the Cook Realty Trust along with Easton Farm Partners. The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial.

No court date has been set, according to the Warren County Clerk of Courts website.

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The lawsuit is seeking a declaration from the court that the existing R-1 residential restrictions are unconstitutional; a temporary and permanent injunction to keep the city from enforcing the current zoning classification; damages “for each and every day the property remains subject to its unconstitutional zoning; and as an alternative, if the current zoning remains, require the city to compensate the owners and developers for the losses that have and continue incur as a result of the city’s decision to be determined by a jury; court costs and attorney fees and other relief determined by the court.

The property at 605 N. Main St., Springboro, was the focus of a contentious rezoning process that was opposed by residents. Some residents in neighboring subdivisions and elsewhere in the city objected to the the number of homes proposed.

Springboro City Council on Oct. 8 rejected the request to change the zoning.

“Unfortunately, Springboro didn’t follow its own Land Use plan requirements and ignored a unanimous Planning Commission vote and an overwhelmingly positive staff recommendation for the rezoning of Easton Farm,” said Doug Borror, a partner in Easton Farm Partners LLC and CEO of Borror. “Now the owners of the property have no choice but to rely on the courts to have their rights protected.”

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The complaint points out Springboro’s Land Use Plan specifically requires commercial zoning along the Ohio 741 corridor, yet current R1 zoning only allows for single family “estate” homes – making the council’s vote a clear contradiction of both the city’s own Land Use Plan and zoning directives.

“The current R-1 zoning violates constitutional protections, as it is irrational, arbitrary, unreasonable and has no substantial relation to public health, safety, morals or general welfare,” reads the complaint. The complaint also alleges that “City Council’s rejection of the unanimous recommendations of both City Staff and Planning Commission is not a rational application of zoning principles.”

“Our family has owned this property since 1857 – before zoning laws existed. Our wishes are to leave a legacy in Springboro that is greater than any one generation or even one family,” said Becky (Easton) Hall. “We’ve never backed down from doing what’s right, and we believe in this plan and this development. It is a fitting legacy for the five generations of our family who have called this property home and the thousands of residents of Springboro who will enjoy the development.”

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The Easton Farm project, presented by Dillin/Borror, first went to planning commission in March to begin the rezoning process in accordance with the city’s 2009 published land use plan and with positive reinforcement from city staff and the Halls/Cooks, owners of the property. The seven-member Planning Commission in June unanimously voted in favor of the rezoning.

“The Easton Farm master plan, as approved by planning commission, will be an economic development boon for Springboro,” said Larry Dillin, partner of Easton Farm Partners, and president of Dillin LLC. “We remain committed to achieving approval of a legacy project at Easton Farm.”

Springboro City Manager Chris Pozzuto declined to comment because he said the city had not been served with the lawsuit as of Wednesday morning.

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